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DECEMBER Plant Care Checklist

Winter is a good time to clean and sharpen tools. Photo:  Piqsels
Winter is a good time to clean and sharpen tools. Photo: Piqsels

Maintenance and prevention

  • Clean up the garden to avoid over-wintering diseases.
  • Cover open compost bins with a tarp when the rains begin.
  • Protect frost-sensitive garden plants such as succulents. If frost is predicted, cover or move them under a sheltering overhang. Use stakes around the plants to suspend the covering material so it doesn’t touch the foliage. Remove frost blankets during the day. Consider applying an anti-transpirant compound to plant foliage to seal in moisture.
  • Wait until the weather warms up in March to prune off any frost damaged plant parts.
  • Tour your landscape during a heavy rainfall. See where water is coming off your house and where there are eroding torrents. Think about ways to slow, spread, and sink the rain.
  • Do not disturb soil – no digging, tilling, or walking on wet soil to avoid compacting.  Shovel less, nurture more.
  • Clean and sharpen tools - remove all soil and wash them with a 10% bleach solution to avoid spreading diseases. After drying them completely, apply a light layer of vegetable oil to prevent rusting.
  • Reduce watering houseplants to avoid root rot over the winter when they are not actively growing.
  • Ensure houseplants are not exposed to heat sources. Increase humidity by placing plants on pebble filled saucers.
  • Feed the birds. Keep suet and seed feeders full.

Planting and propagating

  • Take cuttings of succulents and create small container gardens for holiday gifts.
  • Finish planting spring blooming bulbs.
  • Continue planting native plants and bulbs and scattering annual wildflower seeds.
  • Shop for the winter blooming Camellia sasanqua while it is in bloom.

Cutting and pruning

  • Lightly prune any evergreen shrubs to keep pathways clear. Trees can be thinned to prevent storm/wind damage.
  • Prune woody shrubs, hardy deciduous trees, dormant shade trees, and winter flowering shrubs just after bloom. Wait to prune spring flowering trees and shrubs until after they bloom.
  • Bring trimmed bare branches indoors for a unique decorative element.

Feed and fertilize

  • Lightly fertilize potted winter-growing succulents such as Aeonium, Aloe, and Kalanchoe if needed.

Pests and weeds


  • Plant bulb onions and rhubarb divisions.
  • Watch for frost; cover sensitive crops as needed.
  • Learn more about crops to plant in December and other activities in the edible garden.

Fire-smart Landscaping

  • Plan for the upcoming fire season. Start by understanding the defensible space zones, especially the five feet surrounding the perimeter of your home. Remove combustible materials or vegetation in that area, especially near windows.
  • Learn more about fire-smart defensible space zones.